“I’m not sure she’s as loveable as you think she is.”

My mother said this to my husband, within earshot of me, not too long ago. He laughed. She was just joking, of course. Well… half-joking.

Because truly…on a day-to-day basis, I’m not that lovable. I veer to cranky, pessimistic, and fatigued in short order. I have no technical skills – ever; too little money -often; and way too many children – always. I don’t like to drive, don’t watch reality tv, and my religious views upset everybody. I have not an adventurous bone in my body. I suffer from chronic indigestion, red hair, and a permanent double chin. Basically I’m less preferable than a cranky, fat, worn out cat who vomits daily and then claws you for no reason at all, even when you are just trying to sit down close to pet her.

In short, I’m not that lovable.

Which is a big challenge for my husband. He vowed to love me, for better or worse, twenty-two years ago today. He took those vows the day after we graduated from college…for better or for worse. And mostly, honestly, he has seen ‘worse’. Even my mother thinks so.

Back when we were first married I would not have made this sort of self-pitying claim. Back then I was naively, innately optimistic about life. The morning after we were married we flew to Hawaii on a mostly empty plane, clouds and blue seas paving the way, and I felt blissfully happy. I had graduated college, married my nice, smiley, musical guy, and here we were…off to paradise.

Gazing back fondly on this scene, our first day of married life, seems so symbolic now. For as we hurtled skyward into our future, Damon dozed wearily on my lap. I sat, mindlessly waiting, staring out the window into nothingness. After a while of this, a smartly dressed air steward came waltzing down the aisle bearing tall, swirly, reddish-orange drinks on a tray. As he came closer, he bent directly in front of me.  “For the newlyweds…” the steward proclaimed, as if I were the Queen of England sitting there in third class. “Are you Mrs. Kirk?”

I gasped. I was Mrs. Kirk! Eagerly I eyed those sweet, alcoholic pools with their floating fruit kebabs. This seemed too wonderful. Here I was, off to Hawaii, no pesky seat mates in our vicinity on the plane, my new husband asleep on my lap, and now this handsome lad lavishing me with tropical drinks! For Mrs. Kirk….me! This was the first time hearing my new name aloud.

Carefully, carefully I undid the fold-down tray so that it rested right over top of Damon’s head. Without a word the steward set both drinks down and disappeared, and for the next few hours I peered out the window while careening through that wild, blue abyss, sipping both of those Mai Tai’s without even once attempting to wake the new Mr. Kirk. Nor did I try to share this first bit of unexpected good fortune with him.

Twenty-two years later this scene seems a bit far-fetched, even to me. First off, why would the plane be so empty traveling to Hawaii? And do stewards even make Mai Tai’s anymore? Certainly they don’t bring them to you without a credit card involved! The most astounding part of the whole scenario as I recreate it in my mind, sitting now in my messy kitchen with dishes piled in the sink, staring out the window at the gray clouds swirling by, is that it completely sums up our marriage in its entirety. Damon  – constantly weary and trying to catch a nap. Me – forever gazing skyward, wondering aimlessly what to do with myself, meekly clutching an alcoholic beverage like a life jacket. In case of emergency…drink quickly!

Twenty two years have passed since that plane ride. We have had five children, oodles of pets, several homes in several states. Through all of this, Damon has laughed at the sand on the bathroom floor; held my hand as we’ve rushed through yet another hospital door; spoken for me to judges and juries; worked two jobs to cover the bills; then stroked my head even as I vomited and clawed at him. He has talked me through computer glitches and financial ruin, basement floods and abruptio placentae, hyperemesis and ptyalism, kidney stones and career changes, cross-country moves and mental breakdowns. He has been steadfast through lice epidemics, temper tantrums, tirades, even lawsuits. He has watched me gain forty pounds and four hundred gray hairs and then has merely laughed when I put infant formula in the coffee pot instead of beans. He has rushed out of the house at midnight to parallel park my car for me; strung up Christmas lights all over the house in October; driven all night; painted all day; and wordlessly grabbed a shovel when I willy-nilly decided to dig a pool, by hand, in the backyard.

My smiley, nice, musical guy has loved me for worse for twenty two years. And nothing in this whole wide, swirly blue world could be any better.Number 22